DESPITE regional unrest, participants at this year’s Arabian Travel Market (ATM) were confident about the strength of the regional travel sector and optimistic about future growth prospects.
The success of ATM 2011, held from May 2 to 5 at the Dubai International Exhibition and Convention Centre, UAE, has mirrored the strength of the regional tourism industry through its impressive post show figures.
Although the official audited figures are not yet available, initial estimates show participant numbers up more than 10 per cent year-on-year at 24,300, increasing from 21,900 in 2010. While more than 2,200 exhibiting companies comprised a total exhibition net floor space of almost 20,000 sq m.
'Arabian Travel Market is an effective barometer for the health of the regional travel and tourism sector. Notwithstanding our hugely popular seminar and conference programme, dedicated cruise and medical pavilions, the numbers and feedback comments echo the underlying confidence throughout the industry and the wave of optimism going forward,' said Mark Walsh, group exhibition director, Reed Travel Exhibitions, which organises ATM.
'The figures are a clear demonstration of just how robust the region’s tourism sector is, as travel and tourism operators and hoteliers from outside the Middle East look to the Gulf as an inbound source market of choice, especially given the slow pace of economic recovery across Europe and the US.'
According to the World Tourism Organisation (WTO), Saudi Arabia alone is the largest outbound travel market in terms of average spend, with travellers spending $6.7 billion per year on overseas travel. Further evidence of burgeoning inbound and outbound travel came from Dubai International Airport, which anticipates growth of 11 per cent and more than 52 million passengers in 2011, making it the fourth busiest airport in the world.
'Inbound tourism is in good health as well, with WTO research indicating inbound tourism to the Middle East returned to double-digit growth of 14 per cent, 60 million visitors, with almost all destinations growing by 10 per cent or more in 2010,' added Walsh.
Contributing to the success of ATM is the quality of its conference and seminar programme, with industry experts discussing the top industry trends and issues, addressing headline topics from a variety of segments including aviation, luxury travel, travel technology, ‘green’ tourism and more.
The show also featured special offerings catering to specific parts of the travel trade including Travel Agents’ Day and Careers Day.
Further responding to trends in regional travel and tourism, this year’s exhibition included pavilions dedicated to the cruise and medical tourism sectors – both industry segments showing significant growth across the region.
Exhibitor feedback clearly highlights the success of the show in unlocking new opportunities and providing a central forum for reaching customers, developing business opportunities and gathering industry intelligence.
'In promoting our fleet of luxury mega yachts, we generated new business and found ATM an ideal platform to inform the trade about what we can offer, as well as learning about the demands of the regional market here,' said Anne Fuldby, director of sales, Variety Cruises.
Others found the numerous networking opportunities provided by the event invaluable.
'The power of networking is crucial, and certainly within the travel and hospitality industry there’s no better way to develop lasting relationships than through face-to-face interaction. ATM is a great place to reinforce your brand,' said Rebecca Wilson, director, ESP International.
Importantly for the region, with some countries having experienced political unrest in recent months, others spoke of the role ATM plays in rebuilding national tourism industries.
According to Egyptian tour operator, Azza Zaghloul, managing director of Harty Tours: 'Following the period of instability in Egypt, ATM was a good opportunity to emphasise that we are still in business. With a niche luxury product, I was able to meet with hosted buyers from Singapore, Germany, Ireland, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.'
Preparations for Arabian Travel Market 2012 are already underway, next year’s show will be held from April 30 to May 3, with earlybird bookings already active.
TTN is the most established trade publication in the Middle East distributed on a controlled circulation basis to members of the travel and tourism industry.
Published monthly by Al Hilal Publishing and Marketing Group, the region’s foremost trade publisher, TTN is aimed at professionals in the industry, from travel agents to airline and hotel personnel.
TTN provides in-depth and extensive coverage of relevant issues in the Middle East and North Africa as well as in other parts of the world. Travel related news, analysis, and new appointments together with information on up-coming exhibitions, marketing and promotional campaigns are presented in an innovative and striking colour tabloid.
Every issue also contains a collation of international and regional news and topical features of interest to readers.